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Review: Evangelion 3.33

You Can (Not) Redo opens with an orbital orchestration, where Evangelion Unit 01 – with Shinji Ikari sealed inside – is a lifeless partner puppeteered by pilots Asuka Langley Shikinami and Mari Illustrious Makinami. There is something unsettling but beautiful in its movement, in the way the camera floats and follows the action downwards to the lonely blue planet below.

Fourteen years have passed since Shinji was sealed, and upon waking he’s still caught in the conflict of adolescence. His fear, anger, isolation and yearning paint the picture of a wounded teen and yeah, he’s whiny, but this time he’s got every reason to be. If he wasn’t a fish out of water (or is that Eva out of orbit?) before, then he certainly is now. Salvaged from Unit 01 and fitted with a bomb collar, Shinji is a captive of WILLE – an organisation made up of former NERV personnel and led by Misato Katsuragi and Ritsuko Akagi. Shinji discovers that its purpose is, in fact, to destroy both NERV and the Evangelion units.

Like the previous installments, 3.33 sees writer/director Hideaki Anno working out his demons with a new spin on his painful brainchild that’s somewhere between a remake and a sequel. It’s a visual testament to the ongoing fragility of Shinji’s mental state, and filling the gap in his memory is paved with excruciating truths and the revelation of the impending Third Impact. The vastness of the cosmos, and the open sea and skies emphasise the depth and size of this universe that has been gradually built up over decades.

The sound design splices the organic and the technological, and the whirls, groans and screams make for a chilling concoction. As with every title under the Evangelion umbrella, You Can (Not) Redo is full of lingering imagery. The towered skulls and raining blood counterpoint the triumphant sequences of the ships taking flight from the sea and unfurling great mechanical components. It’s a dark and troubling watch, for sure, but there are moments of reverence, of quietness and astutely observed interaction. And then the combat is visceral; ugly, physical and utterly compelling.

After being sprung from WILLE by the ever enigmatic Rei Ayanami, Shinji is brought to the now dilapidated NERV headquarters. There he’s told by his clandestine father that he is to pilot a new Evangelion – Unit 13 – with Kaworu. His relationship with Shinji is at its most exposed this time around, giving new food to the oft debated question of his sexuality. Their piano duet beautifully plays on this idea and draws a parallel between the composition and the piloting of an EVA, as if they were one and the same. The suggestion between the two boys in the middle of this conflict is testimony to Anno’s continuing saga and the post-modern take on adolescence.

The quality of the animation helps to sell the functional setting. It’s not quite the ‘used universe’ of the Star Wars saga or the grim dystopia of Blade Runner, but somewhere in between perhaps. It’s a contemporary twist on classic character design that makes for something nostalgic yet slick, where the viewer can make out the thread on every bolt and the rivets on every bulkhead.

The plotting is ponderous, like watching the sky for the stars to come out, and might appeal to a broader cross-section of sci-fi fans, but this is by and large one for the passionate pluggers. That is, if they can wade through the inherent confusion at the heart of this third entry. The ‘to be continued’ cliffhanger, however, is offset by the treasure trove of extras and the prospect of reclaiming, or rather redefining, Rei’s character.

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